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BEST PRODUCER Minneapolis 2002 - Mike Wisti

There are more recording studios in town right now than there are rock clubs. And the work of Twin Cities producers is louder in the mass culture than is any local musician--Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (Janet Jackson) and John "Strawberry" Fields (Andrew W.K.) being the most obvious examples. Yet many engineers unknown to the national music industry serve a more vital function as de facto local archivists, documenting the ephemeral independent music scene. Few have done so with more generosity, patience, and good sense than Rank Strangers singer Mike Wisti, proprietor of the basement studio Albatross. To hear a numbered copy of his Albatross 2000 compilation is to survey the then-cutting edge of youthful local punk and indie rock: Malachi Constant, Wicketran, Amp 176, and Ten Ton Bridge are all there, each with a bright-sounding track and with rough edges intact. Wisti has sonic ideas to spare, as demonstrated on the almost Radiohead-like richness of his group's latest, self-titled CD. Yet his forte with young bands like Grickle Grass and Choplogic seems to be spotting talent, getting the musicians in and out of the studio efficiently, and never letting anyone overwork the material. Even his recordings of country, pop, and funk bristle with an immediacy and openness that most local punk records lack. These works aren't overly "compressed" or "warm"; they don't die in the stereo. Wisti seems to have extracted every possible benefit from the humble fact of recording musicians in his own house. They're all guests, really. And they want to make a good impression.

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